Venetian Cartography – Progress Blog 3

Woodcut maps were preferred by many cartographers: Giovanni Andrea, Matteo Pagano (~1515-1588) and Giacomo Gastaldi (1500-1565), have all worked with woodcut mapping. Cartographers at that time were generally active wood engravers as well as publishers. They often worked in collaboration, such that there are many similarities between map works in a limited time range. Gastaldi was not only an Italian cartographer, but also an astronomer and engineer. He worked in collaboration with Pagano, but he was also used as a source by many other cartographers: Francesco Camocio, Ferdinando Bertelli, Paolo Forlani, Fabio Licinio and Bolognino Zaltieri. Among these, we notice Paolo Forlani (flourished from 1560-1571), who was a copper plate engraver and publisher. He was a source of inspiration for Donato Bertelli’s work. Bertelli (1558-1592) was a Venetian publisher and map seller.

Comparing the Venice maps by Bordone – published in 1528 and by Bertelli – published in 1566, about 40 years later, the improvement in localizing details, establishing orientation, distances is definitely noticeable, but the level of detail is also higher: more buildings are depicted, more details on surroundings, and one notable aspect: only the latter map contains a depiction of the San Michele island.

Other cartographers and respectively their maps at the time worth mentioning are: Bolognino Zaltieri(1555-1576) with a map of Venice published in 1565. Taking advantage of the used colors, the absence of modern road links to mainland is prominent. Thomasso Porcacchi (1530-1585) was also a cartographer who worked and published in Venice. Inspired by Giovanni Francesco Comocio and Girolamo Porro (1520-1604), he worked on his book ‘L’Isole Piu famose del Mondo’ (Pocked-sized atlas of the world), published in 1572. Giacomo Franco was another cartographer of the sixteenth century, who worked as an engraver and publisher as well. His book ‘Viaggio da Venetia a Constantinopoli per Mare’, published in 1597, contains a collection of illustration, some of which representing maps of Venice.

[1528]Bordone – [1566]Bertelli – [1565] Zaltieri [gif. open in new tab]
What can be noticed for the sixteenth century is that the interest in maps was focused on its geographic functions rather than economic ones. They were used as a tool for navigation, but their design was mostly based on serving administrative purposes. As many cartographers have used as source of inspiration one another, sixteenth century Venice maps are generally constructed in a similar way. They use an angular perspective (bird’s eye view), which distorts the map (as it can be noticed in the video below), and most importantly, they highlight various aspects of the landscape such as important buildings in Venice, as well as ships, to emphasize the map’s usage in navigation.

With the end of the seventeenth century, cartographers have changed their vision of mapping, and started using a projection perspective, giving a more accurate depiction of Venice. When comparing multiple maps of the eighteenth century (next video), although the level of detail might differ, the proportions remain mostly constant and accurate.

Lastly we have looked closely at how important places around Venice were depicted in early maps. We make a comparison between a map from 1641 by Matthaus Merian and the current Google Earth map of Venice, and notice any similarities or differences there may be. As an overview, the most significant difference is the aspect ratio of the two maps. The former map is closely depicting Venice, however distances and different areas are highly exaggerated. One aspect of the evolution of the environment is the presence of rail/roads, which can only be observed in the current map.

Venice, Matthäus Merian, 1641 vs Google Earth 2014
Venice, Matthäus Merian, 1641 vs Google Earth 2014

In the next images we see relevant buildings that were carefully depicted in woodcut maps, compared to 3D reconstruction.  For all of them we notice a lot of detail of the buildings, bridges and ships.

St Mark’s Square; St. Mark’s Basilica; Doge’s Palace;
St Mark’s Square; St. Mark’s Basilica; Doge’s Palace;
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge